Despite having a long list of potential recipes to choose from, this week I was feeling quite uninspired. Most cooking is influenced by seasons and sadly right now is that in between time – no longer summer, but not quite fall. Believe me, I just want it to be October so I can cooking everything pumpkin related to my heart’s content.
Anyway, having come down with a cold this week (I kind of had a fever the other night, oops!), I decided I would make French Onion Soup. (*This post is dedicated to Ms. Irena Zofchak who loves French Onion Soup more than anyone I know!)
While I have a tried and true French Onion recipe, I was interested in finding a new one – or at least perusing the abundance of recipes to get a better idea what makes a good French Onion soup. Doing some research, I came across Michael Ruhlman‘s recipe. It’s simplicity intrigued me – calling for onions, water, salt, pepper, sherry – thats it! As Ruhlman explains, french onion soup at its most basic is a peasant meal, “borne out of economy.”
More importantly, with so few ingredients, there is little room for error – the challenge of making this soup then would be trusting my instincts and palate. Needless to say, I may love to cook, but I second guess my abilities. This would be a good lesson in having a little faith.
This recipe calls for 7 to 8 onions, thinly sliced… which let me say thats A LOT of onions. A) does anyone think of that scene from Shrek when dealing with onions? Just me? B) I have not cried while chopping onions in years. Water work city over here though this time around.
The secret to really great french onion soup is all about that caramelization of the onions. You want that rich amber color and taking the time to cook them over a low flame for hours to get to that point is so worth it!
The smell of caramelized onions has got to be on my Top 5 list of “The Best Smells in the World.” This list includes freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, fresh rosemary (side story: I had to buy two rosemary plants for work. Returning in the elevator I made friends with a nice man who could not get over the amazing smell), and… okay I lied I only have a Top 3 list, but I am open to suggestions!
Once you’ve gotten you’re onions to that heavenly point, it’s about adding your liquids – water or beef broth, maybe a dash of sherry, red wine or vinegar, and seasoning it.
And of course, the best part of french onion soup for me is always that hunk of toasted bread on top with delicious gooey melted Gruyere cheese.
This was such an easy recipe, perfect for a lazy day at home. Nothing beats caramelized onions, and cheesy toast!
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 7 or 8 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 6 -12 slices baguette
- *⅓ cup sherry
- Red- or white-wine vinegar (optional) or Red wine (optional)
- ½ to ¾ lb Gruyere cheese, grated
- Place a 7½-quart enameled cast-iron pot over medium heat; melt butter. Add onions and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt;
- Cover, and cook until onions have heated through and started to steam. Uncover and reduce heat to low; Cook, stirring occasionally, until amber and cooked down, about 3 hours. Season with pepper.
- Add 6 cups water to pot with onions; increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Immediately reduce heat to low. Add sherry; season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar, if desired, to cut sweetness. For more depth of flavor add a splash of red wine, if desired.
- Preheat broiler. Divide soup evenly among 4 to 6 ovenproof bowls; top with toasted bread. Divide cheese evenly among bowls. Transfer bowls to broiler; broil until cheese is melted and browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.